Tag Archives: Hunger Games

‘100’ may be trying to get ‘Lost’

Grounded sky dwellers Clarke and Octavia, either running into trouble or running from it.

Grounded sky dwellers Clarke and Octavia, either running into trouble or running from it.

Spoilers ahead. You were warned.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the CW’s The 100. I started watching it with my (then) tween daughter, who is a big fan of all things Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. And while in its own post-apocalyptic way The 100 is part of that youth genre, the writers and other minds behind the show have done a nice job of establishing unique situations and strong characters. The three-way war between sky folk, grounders and the mountain people was masterful, a situation made more interesting by the personal relationships and political machinations that each side has tried to manipulate in their favor.

Clarke has become the most interesting character. Yes, she’s the lead, the daughter of the only doctor among the sky people, a conscience at times when the youthful, shrinking group of 100 needed her to be, particularly in the first season. But the second season has seen a dramatic change in her role. As she has ascended to leadership, she is the one who now must make the tough decisions. She can’t just stand on the sidelines and critique. Now, the blood is on her hands when things go wrong, when battles must be fought, when conflicts must be settled. The change becomes apparent at mid-season when her love interest, Finn, is surrendered for the mass murder of unarmed grounders. It is a political decision to hand him over. It smooths the path for unity between grounders and sky people, as well as their military alliance against the mountain folk. Finn will be tortured, slowly, in gruesome manners for his crime. Clarke approaches him, hugs him to say goodbye, then stabs him in the gut, sealing her bargain with the grounders with blood without allowing Finn’s death to be dragged out over days. It’s a hard call, but the mark of leadership.

I could go on and on about the positives regarding character development, factions and more. It’s all praise that is deserving. But I’m worried that the good times may be over, and that has paused my adoration.

At the end of season two, Jaha – who was the leader among the sky people while in space, but has become a Quixotic character in his search for civilization – has found what he believes to be is the fabled City of Light, of which we have heard a lot about, but not much of substance. Things are clean, solar-powered, food and drink are around. But Jaha finds a settler, a digital image of a human who we were warned might be the person who started the nukes flying that sent our plucky heroes’ ancestors to space in the first place. This digital being seems determined to start the radiation parade all over again. ostensibly with the help of Jaha.

There was something about it that just screamed … Lost. To this point, there’s been no mystical element to the proceedings. To be sure, there’s been plenty of weird to go around, but all explainable. But this moment that closed Season Two felt like the smoke monsters, talking to dead people, ancient temples, a plane full of carcasses on the bottom of the ocean. I sincerely hope that this will lead somewhere rewarding, don’t get me wrong.

But my Spidey Sense is tingling. And as we all know, that never ended well for Peter Parker.

To be continued …

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‘Winter’s Bone’ performance made Lawrence obvious choice for Katniss

The future Katniss Everdeen starved and fought in the wilds of Missouri before she took on the powers of Panem.

The future Katniss Everdeen starved and fought in the wilds of Missouri before she took on the powers of Panem.

A while back during a semi-anti-Moby Dick rant, I professed my love for the Daniel Woodrell novel Winter’s Bone. The story of a 17-year-old girl living in rural, cloistered Missouri follows her as she attempts to find her crank-cooking father, who, if she can’t get him to court in time, will cost them the family home he put up for bail. Then Ree would be left to care for her two younger siblings and mentally unstable mother without a roof over their heads.

Winter’s Bone is compact, pulse-pounding, a book that’s hard to read because you know even if you get a happy ending, it’s probably not going to be all that happy.

I applaud Debra Granik and those behind the screen adaptation of Winter’s Bone. They captured the poverty, the grind, the inevitability of violence that permeates the book. Jennifer Lawrence is terrific, a mix of determination and fear driving her every action. You really can watch this – a teenage girl protecting a younger sibling(s), no dad in the mix, violence around every corner, poverty and starvation the norm – and see precisely why Lawrence earned the role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies. Hell, watch Winter’s Bone and you’ll wonder why they ever bothered auditioning anyone else to play the Mockingjay.

I also want to credit the filmmakers for making me re-think the book. On the page, the constant rejection by everyone around Ree seems to be simply the product of a cloistered society that relies on illegal income. Nobody wants to say anything because nobody wants to be labeled a snitch. It’s the code of Ozarks, cut and dried. In the film, it feels more personal. Ree is the daughter of a snitch, and who knows, maybe that shit’s genetic? When she is turned away time and time again by those who might help, it comes off as less about the code and more personal, a rejection of who they believe Ree is, the daughter of Jessup the dead rat. It doesn’t change the plot or outcome at all, but it adds a ripple and separates it from the novel just a hint.

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‘Mockingjay’ is great … except for the one part that $#%@s up the big picture

Katniss takes a moment with Gale.

Katniss takes on the mantle of revolutionary.

(There will be spoilers. Seems I shouldn’t have to warn anyone about that, but there you go.)

I entered the first of the Mockingjay films with a bit of trepidation. The snippets of reviews I had read were good, not great, tending to note that it felt like everything was being dragged out so that book three could be made into movies three and four. Anytime one book gets split into more than one movie, there’s the potential for that issue, and it was a concern I had when the split was announced.

I’m not sure what film the reviewers were watching, but apparently they were talking about another Mockingjay. I thought Catching Fire felt rushed and left too much out, nullifying some of the emotional impact of the story. As far as scope goes, Mockingjay is a much larger story with a much more delicate balance with what’s playing out internally for Katniss and for all of Panem. The foundation of that larger story is threefold: First, Katniss stepping up from just being the face of revolution and becoming the Che Guevara of Panem; second, the lengths both political heavyweights – President Snow and President Coin – will go to manipulate Everdeen for their own ends; third, the Katniss-Peeta dynamic. For the most part, Mockingjay Part I nails all of that.

For the most part. Until the filmmakers went and fucked up the political game in one foolish stroke.

One of the central conundrums in the Mockingjay book isn’t if evil President Snow will get his, but if President Coin might not be just as evil as Snow. Some of that plays out in her interactions with Katniss, some of it plays out in Coin’s larger decisions in the fight against Snow. But some of it comes down to some very specific moments in the third book. Is Coin the one who drops the bombs on the healers and children in the square of the Capital City? Is she responsible for Prim’s death? In the book, Snow insinuates that is the case, and Katniss at some level believes him, not so much because of Snow’s promise that he will always be honest with her, but because of what Katniss knows about the military capabilities of District 13 and the flaws she already has perceived in Coin’s character. But in the book, it doesn’t all ride on Katniss having to buy into the events surrounding that one moment. There are other hints regarding Coin’s duplicity, including the implication that, when the Capital attacks during Katniss’s first visit to a field hospital, it isn’t the Snow’s forces at all, but District 13 soldiers in stolen Capital jets, killing their own in an effort to push Katniss over the brink and into the role of revolutionary leader. At the very least, the suggestion is made that Coin may have leaked the information about where and when Katniss would be to draw the attention of Snow and the Capital forces.

That’s essential to Mockingjay. It’s vital. It’s importance cannot be underestimated. As readers put Coin on trial in their minds, that’s a key piece of evidence against the president of District 13. And in one quick, unnecessary scene, the filmmakers blow that. They actually show Snow ordering the strike on the hospital, and show that he received the information via his own surveillance network. The ambiguity is snuffed out. In the context of that part of the movie, it’s a small thing. In the larger context of the series, it undercuts a huge chunk of what author Suzanne Collins is attempting to accomplish. One of the major themes of the Hunger Games trilogy is use and abuse of power, how even the good guys can make bad choices, even if for very good reasons, and what that says about the good guys’ character. In the book, there’s uncertainty about Snow’s allegations, but the eye test makes Coin look very fishy, at least. Now, that’s been undone. If the filmmakers are going to make Coin look bad, there’s no longer a list of evidence that exists to makes that case. Now it will all really fall on one moment, that attack in the Capital square near the end of the book.

Will that be enough? Will it work for the movie, even if they’re not following the book’s template? Stay tuned …

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‘Maze Runner’ succeeds where ‘Divergent’ failed

That "runner" in the title was in no way misleading.

That “runner” in the title was in no way misleading.

I shouldn’t have to say spoilers ahead, but I am, so heed my warning.

Remember how dull Divergent was? A slow, overstuffed, slog of a movie that wasted the talent of far too many quality actors, ranged all over the place without committing to much of anything until crunch time and not once made any attempt to explain what the deal was with the big wall around the city? Yeah, that’s not Maze Runner at all.

Maze Runner gives a quick set up, explaining that once a month a service elevator rises from underground into a meadow in the middle of an enormous maze. The elevator carries supplies for the boys and young men living in “The Glade,” as well as one new occupant, who – like all of the other boys – remembers nothing about anything that happened before his arrival in this new, odd and terrifying place. All of the boys operate under a simple code of conduct, each contributing to the collective as they are assigned. Our newbie Thomas (played ably by Dylan O’Brien) wants in on action with the maze runners, a group of guys who leave each morning to run The Maze, mapping as they go, trying to beat it back to The Glade before the doors to The Maze close each evening. Because nobody survives night in The Maze. Nobody.

Once that set-up is established, all hell breaks loose. Kids that get stung by occupants of the maze – mechanical/biological hybrids known as Grievers – turn psychotic and slowly die. The schedule of The Maze changes. Grievers attack the glade. And so on. After the initial moments of the movie, there isn’t much time to catch your breath. The pacing is fantastic, the young cast likable and believable, the effects solid.

My only real problem with Maze Runner is the explanation the Gladers get about their lives and the world they live in when they finally find their way through The Maze. It seems pretty ridiculous. But (and that’s a big old but), there’s a chance what they’ve been told is a lie. If that’s the case, the ensuing Maze flicks should be interesting.

Unlike Divergent. The Maze Runner earns the YA sci-fi screen adaption crown of 2014 … at least until Katniss blows it all up in November.


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Feeling the ‘Hunger’

I enjoyed reading the Hunger Games series. I thought it was well done as a tragic adventure story for young readers, and for more mature readers, Suzanne Collins does a deft job of selling her take on the future and its celebrity culture, reality TV, political manipulation and the constant struggle of an elite class to accumulate as much power as they can.

I’m also pleased because it’s a book my daughter can read that gives her someone to look up to and identify with in a positive manner. Katniss Everdeen is brave, loyal, smart, self-reliant and inventive. She’s also a disaster at personal relationships and is tone deaf to the politics of any situation. In other words, she’s human. She’s also a terrific, tortured main character. For a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan like me, I know these sorts of heroines are rare and am left wishing each of the three books in the Hunger series was about 200 pages longer. And though her love relationships tend to be complicated, Katniss isn’t stuck making a choice between two boys who aren’t good for her. On the contrary, both are solid citizens and love her completely, which helps make the choice even more difficult.

The type of character that seems all too common – and I hope my daughter will avoid showering her affection upon – is exemplified by Bella Swan. She gives up all of herself for someone who is cold, distant and bloodsucking. Her other choice is a shape-changer that, on a bad day, would eat her alive and pick his teeth with her bones. Bella sacrifices her life, although she’s reborn as a vampire, for Edward. Her adoration is blind and stupid. Her actions are foolish and usually with little thought for anyone but her and her undead lover. Her life is Edward’s, not her own, and by her choice. It’s not how I want my little girl to think about her relationships with boys, and I’m not sure why everyone seems to think it’s so romantic in the Twilight series. On the contrary, it’s pathetic.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick with Katniss, and encourage my daughter to do the same.

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